Protests have raged across the country in righteous outrage at the police killing of George Floyd. In Phoenix, protests have been held not only in honor of Floyd but also for Dion Johnson, the 28-year-old black man who was shot and killed by an Arizona Department of Safety Trooper the same day Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
AZ Central reports that audio from the May 25 dispatch call from the incident was released by an unknown source. In the three-minute audio released on YouTube, the officer reports finding Johnson’s car parked at the gore point of the Loop 101 freeway and Tatum Boulevard with Johnson asleep in the driver’s seat. The officer mentions the smell of alcohol and possible open containers in the vehicle. Some time goes by before the officer notes that shots have been fired.
AZ Central notes that the Phoenix Police Department released its own statement about the incident on Wednesday evening, which provides a more details about what led to the shooting, according to police spokeswoman Sgt. Maggie Cox.
From AZ Central:
The statement said the trooper “smelled an odor of alcohol, saw beer cans and a gun in the vehicle.” The trooper removed the gun from Johnson’s vehicle and secured it on his motorcycle.
After calling for backup, the trooper noticed Johnson moving, so he went back to the car and tried to arrest Johnson. Johnson, now awake, “grabbed onto” the trooper through the driver’s side door, which began the struggle. The trooper later told investigators he was worried he would be pushed into oncoming traffic so he drew his gun, Cox said.
“Mr. Johnson began to comply but as the trooper was holstering his gun, Mr. Johnson reached for the gun and a second altercation ensued,” Cox said. “The trooper, fearing for his life, then fired his service weapon striking Mr. Johnson. A second trooper arrived after the shooting and assisted in removing Mr. Johnson from the vehicle.”
Johnson’s family was presented with both the audio and traffic camera footage of the incident. The shooting isn’t on the footage but it does show Johnson’s body handcuffed and left on the ground for six minutes after being shot. DPS troopers aren’t required to wear body cameras so this may be the only footage that exists of the shooting.
Erma Johnson, Johnson’s mother, expressed shock and disbelief at what she witnessed.
“I can’t believe that someone that’s supposed to protect and serve would treat a human being the way they treated my son when he was shot, handcuffed, thrown to the ground, obviously, because he was in the car before they shot.” Johnson told AZ Central. During those six minutes Johnson was on the ground, an ambulance and a fire truck can be seen waiting on the side of the highway before going in to provide assistance.
“I just want those officers to be charged, arrested and fired for cruelty to human life, human beings.” Johnson said. Dion’s brother, Dustin Johnson also expressed his dismay about the shooting. “It broke my heart, my soul, everything. I’ve been out here marching since Trayvon Martin got killed. And I never thought in my wildest dreams or anything that it would happen to my family,” Johnson said.
A trooper investigation is currently being conducted by the Phoenix Police Department as well as an administrative investigation by the Arizona Department of Safety.